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About Fallout (1963)

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About Fallout (1963)

Published 1963

Optimistic vision of fallout and civil defense countermeasures.

Run time 22:25
Producer U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense
Sponsor U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Discusses the physics, effects and defense against nuclear fallout. Describes the phenomena of natural radiation and the dangers of fallout. Explains the value of time, distance and mass in weakening the effect of residual radiation. Examines the effects of radiation on the body, food and water. Underscores adequate shelter and prescribed decontamination measures.

Film purports to explain to the viewer how to safely handle one of the aftereffects of an atomic bomb blast: fallout. Ludicrous and full of lies.

stock shots:
x-ray machine; hospital; animation of nuclear blast;
gamma rays; nuclear explosion in desert; animation of weather balloons; fallout shelters; hand washing;
sign: Fallout Shelter; suburban development; manuals to build a home fallout shelter; Geiger counter;
Shows man brushing off fallout dust.
symptoms of radiation sickness; woman with radiation sickness;

How to open food packages that are covered in fallout dust:
"If water for washing is in short supply, canned goods that may have been exposed to fallout may be handled safely with a piece of paper towel."
"There is another widespread legend, the fear that fallout spells death to all life on earth. The plain fact is that even if a great number of nuclear weapons were exploded, the resulting fallout would cover only a small area of the world's total land mass."
"The real concern is this . . . how do we protect ourselves?"
"If there is a nuclear attack and you survive the initial explosion, you will have at least a half hour to get to a public or home fallout shelter."
"If you're among those compelled to travel throughout a fallout area on essential errands, there are certain rules to follow. Protect your body with boots and rubbers, gloves headgear and outer clothing that can be removed before you enter the shelter."
"Recovery from radiation sickness is nothing new. Patients
who are treated by x-rays routinely experience this sickness and get over it."
"You can get over radiation sickness, just as you get over many others [sicknesses]."

Nuclear weapons Atomic weapons Warfare Injuries Radioactivity Nuclear energy Sickness Illness Nuclear Medicine Safety
Danger Lurks


Reviewer: uniQ - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 18, 2011
Subject: AWFUL music
I can't comment on the accuracy or appropriateness of the advice and information given, but I HAVE to single out the introductory music as some of the worst ever. It reminds me of Doctor Caligari!
Reviewer: jgruszynski - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 16, 2010
Subject: Still very accurate
All technically accurate still and meaningful as far as it goes - if you are in the direct blast radius of a bomb naturally all this doesn't matter. If you aren't then this is all valid.

Sadly, reviewers like Spuzz prefer to self-righteously see the world based on ideological correctness and wishful thinking rather than physics and empirical facts.
Reviewer: lwilton - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 16, 2007
Subject: There was more knowledge and less fear back then
In the 1950s and the 1960s before the Evil God Nuk-U-Lar took over the minds of Americans everywhere, it was pretty well known that if you were near an A-Bomb (as they were called then) blast, you were dead. In fact I have a 1958 CD poster of Hnady Tips in the other room. The first sentence is "If you are within 50 miles of an atomic bomb explosion, you have nothing to worry about."

The poster doesn't say that is because you will be dead. It didn't need to say that. Everyone KNEW that. Parents knew that. Teachers in gradeschool knew that. Children knew that. Teachers in kindergarden through the 6th grade taught their students that; and reminded them of that every few air-raid drills, lest they forget.

(Air-raid duck-and-cover drills seemed pretty funny to me in school at the time. If you are going to be toast, why bother getting under the table? I've long since learned that you can be remarkably close to a remarkably big bang and NOT be toast -- if you are lucky. The *biggest* dangers are flash burn and flying glass and suchlike. A table just might help there -- if you are under it and also lucky.)

Another thing we knew back then, since forgotten outside universities, is that isotopes have half-life values. And the half-lives of the really nasty stuff is pretty short. It is short enough that if you could stay out of the fallout for a couple of weeks, most of the really nasty stuff would have decayed down to the point that it wasn't real interesting any more. So after a couple of weeks you could come back out (if you were still alive) and make a try at living again, and you might just manage.

You could even come out of your shelters for *short* periods of time before the two weeks were up. It increased your chance of dying, if not right then in the next couple of years. But hey - if you didn't have food and would have starved to death in two weeks, maybe it was better to chance dying next year to stay live this week by scuttling out and back real quick with some food? A lot of people back then didn't know they were supposed to just curl up and die if things went bad, as we are now certian in this more enlightened era. If the blast didn't get them they would mostly have tried to survive.

Of course things would have been real difficult without cities. And refineries. And railroads. And transportation in general. But a lot more people lived in rural areas back then; about half the country in fact. There was just a whole lot of the country that wasn't going to be nuked. In fact, a big concern was whether they would have to put up an armed defence against invaders while trying to recover in the first few years after the attack.

What we by and large would not have had to put up with back then was roving bands of looters and rioters killing and destrying everything in sight for the pure hell of it, as we must put up with today. There certainly were groups here and there that would have done that. But they were mostly in the cities, and being within 50 miles of a bomb, would have had nothing to worry about.

But American society back then didn't believe people had a natural right to prey on others, (as we know today they do), and was pretty draconian about dealing with people that did believe that. They tended to end up in prisons and just plain executed if they were nasty enough. People also didn't believe that The Government had to do everything for them. If a gang of thugs from Omaha invaded some small town after the bomb, the fact that the Sheriff had bought it in the bomb would not have stopped them from dealing with the thugs so that they could get on with surviving.
Reviewer: Chuck B - favoritefavoritefavorite - March 11, 2003
Subject: Fallout can be delt with
Fallout (radioactive dust and debris) is the main culprit in today's terrorist dirty bomb..though only the big A bomb was the concern at the time this film was made. The radioactive dust produced by these weapons is the thing that will contaminate you if you don't get killed in the blast fragment of todays dirty bomb (a regular explosive with a radioactive item packed with the explosives). Of course the blast from a mushroom cloud creating A bomb will roast you if you are near it. And yes, you can dust off (better to wash off) the fallout or cover yourself with clothing (and stay inside)to keep it off your skin if you are not killed by the blast or hit by radiation from the blast.

Of course if you are within 20 miles of a real atom bomb explosion you are probably going to get atomized...or if you don't die you will probably be severly burned. But if you are several miles downwind, and not in the blast can reduce your exposure by staying out of the fallout dust and move out of the path of the dust clowd.
Entertainment value ***
Usefullness of info ***
Reviewer: Bamaboy - favoritefavoritefavorite - March 6, 2003
Subject: Fallout-It's Not As Harmful As We All Thought
While optomistic about the possibility of nuclear war, this is the Civil Defense Department's best effort to inform and protect the public.

The disclaimer at the beginning says that many would be killed in a nuclear war, but some would survive. Possibly by watching this, some would have lived. I find this film much more believable than the famous "Duck and Cover" film.

This film has some classic animated drawings that I really enjoyed. The film explains that within two weeks the ones who did survive would be able to leave shelters and try to rebuild and carry on. Something that was interesting to me was the fact that the movie said that tall buildings were good shelters. The trick comes in finding a tall building in a city that wasn't leveled by a first strike.

Something that always amazed me was the way the CD department films always show people in nuclear attack situations as being calm and knowing exactly what to do. I seriously doubt that there would be such calm in these situations.

Three stars on this film.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 24, 2003
Subject: About Fallout (1963)
This is the expanded version of the 1955 About Fallout, though to be honest, it looks like both films were made at about the same time. They contain identical scenes to each other and the clothing and hairstyles in both films are obviously from the early 60s. Anyway, this film contains more information than the previous version and it's a little bit less dry as well. It still paints an overly rosy view of a post-apocalyptic future, though. Yes, I know it was meant for those who live far away from any nuclear targets, but still it treats fallout as a completely isolated danger, ignoring the massive economic and social problems that are likely to ensue if all major cities get nuked. One eerie moment in the film is when the narrator talks about what we will need in a post-apocalyptic future, and we see a lone figure drive up on a motorcyclethat's just too remeniscent of Mad Max to go by without comment in my household! Overall, though, the film is still pretty dull.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 10, 2002
Those people at the Civil Defense department don't seem to learn. After producing a corker of a 12 minute documentary film in 1955 called 'About Fallout'. Those people took the original film, doubled it's length, and created a longer film with the same odd headscratching logic. Think of it like the Lord Of The Rings 4 hour DVD, except this doesn't really add anything to the original film
This version's narration is a bit more terse then the 1955 version, perhaps because of the Cuban Missle Crisis still in effect. As I said, pretty much of all the lunacy theories in the 1955 edition are still intact, with some new ones thrown in. Got fallout on your hat? Why just brush it off and you'll be fine! Water will be fine as well!
The film is helped out by some excellent animated segments though of space, and some rather wild noveuau art pieces. All in all, an interesting experience.
Reviewer: movieman - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 28, 2002
Subject: Ludicrous or just optimistic?
There's a fine line between optimistic and ludicrous, but I think this movie stays on the optimistic side: the advice given would have helped people survive in areas away from the nuclear explosions and the worst of the fallout... in such areas the greatest threat would be long-term cancer from ingesting or breathing in fallout particles, or short-term by direct contact with your skin; even an overcoat would stop most alpha and beta radiation, though having almost no effect on gamma.

But this is the real problem: as with the other civil defence movies I've watched on the site, it's only useful to a small number of people who aren't close to an explosion site... the majority would have died regardless of whether they'd watched the movie and followed the advice. As to lies, there are some obvious omissions and half-truths, but probably the biggest lie in the movie is right at the beginning: that there is no certainty of which targets might be hit. Pedantically true, as no-one can tell which missiles might not reach their targets for one reason or another, but it's safe to say that if you lived near any major military or government centre you'd be toast... pretending that the commies might have dropped their bombs at random across America _is_ ludicrous.
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